It's clear that in the current economic climate, avoiding wasted sales and marketing effort (and budget) is a subject that is dear to many hearts, as organisations react to the challenge of trying to do more with the same or fewer resources.
Tough economic times are a powerful catalyst for selling and marketing smarter, and for doing a better job of anticipating and satisfying customer needs. Having a company-wide focus on elevating customer value and eliminating wasted effort is a great start.
With that in mind, here are my conclusions as to the 8 most common sources of wasted sales and marketing effort. Each will form the subject of a future article, when I'll share some more ideas about how to systematically eliminate them.
1: LACK OF AWARENESS: According to some, this has the potential to be the greatest waste of all, since it means that vendors may fail to be considered in deals they could have won, and prospects may fail to identify an optimal solution.
Lack of awareness cuts both ways: it results in vendors being unaware of potential prospects or their issues, and in prospects being unaware of vendors who may have the answer to their problems.
2: OVER PRODUCTION: Over-production is the result of vendors initiating more marketing and sales activities (generating large numbers of unqualified leads, for example) than their organisations are able to properly follow-up.
For anything (like an enquiry from an active prospect) that has a "best before" date, over-production can make it difficult to accurately qualify prospect activity, which has a direct impact on the third waste:
3. POOR QUALIFICATION: Accurate, timely qualification of prospects is critical to the effective use of sales and marketing resources. Like awareness, poor qualification cuts both ways: it renders vendors unable to distinguish between "good" and "bad" deals or to respond accordingly.
The effects of poor qualification are profound. Vendors many end up failing to allocate sufficient resource to otherwise winnable deals, while they waste valuable energy pursuing bad deals that should have been discarded far earlier in the sales cycle.
4: VALUELESS ACTIVITY: This waste involves any action on the part of the vendor that fails to create meaningful customer value or - just as important - to facilitate the prospect's buying process.
These valueless activities can include irrelevant marketing programmes, actions or campaigns, inappropriate sales tools, or sales actions that do nothing to advance the sales cycle. A recent study suggested that in some organisations as much as 90% of the materials produced by marketing were never taken up by either the salesforce or prospects.
5. VALUELESS FUNCTIONALITY: A regrettably common waste amongst technology or product-driven companies. It includes any functionality that prospects see no significant value in, or serves to make the vendor's offering over-complex.
Like the other wastes identified here, valueless functionality is completely avoidable - but only if product development is completely driven by a superior understanding of who their best customers are and of the most critical (and therefore valuable) issues they are trying to solve.
6: UNBALANCED RESOURCES: This waste can be observed wherever bottlenecks or over-capacity are found across different elements of the business or at different times of the business cycle. For example, certain pre-sales resources may be overloaded while others are under-utilised - or back office teams completely maxed out at month or quarter end but under-used at other times.
This waste can be significantly reduced by carefully designing business processes so that they carry a more even workload - or by amending the incentives that cause frenzied end-of-period activity followed by quiet periods.
7: WAITING: This waste can be observed whenever the actions that a vendor takes - or, just as significantly, fails to take - have the effect of slowing or delaying the prospect's buying process.
You might think that vendors would be particularly sensitive about the consequences of the waste of waiting - yet many have habits, processes or procedures that keep the prospect waiting when they would otherwise be willing to move forwards.
8: UNFULFILLED POTENTIAL: The final waste, but the one that most commonly reflects cultural failings on the part of the employer. It is caused by the failure to fully harness your workforces' potential to identify and solve problems and to drive performance improvement.
It's widely recognised that a centralised "command and control" approach is incapable to creating the organisational agility required to cope with changing market conditions - yet many employers fail to systematically engage the talents of their workforce - or the insights of their partners.
So there you have it - the 8 most common causes of waste in B2B sales and marketing. Their cumulative effect is frightening, yet adopting a "lean mindset" can start to change things quickly - and provide the platform for continuous improvement.
Subsequent articles will address each of these wastes. But if you can't wait to find out more, or would simply like to share your opinions and experience, please drop me a line to email@example.com.